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Rahul Gandhi pitches NYAY as a remedy to demonetisation ills; but can his idea work on the ground?

The Economist magazine in an article titled "The war on penury", appearing in the Asia section of the print edition, said that the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), hogging the pride of place in Congress’ election manifesto, might contribute to injustice "by stripping benefits from people striving to escape the bottom fifth and rewarding people striving deceitfully to enter it."

The Economist has hit the nail on the head — NYAY would be counterproductive. There would be a mad scramble for entering the gravy train and as it rightly points out, deceit may play a big role given its potential to tantalise the indolent and the lazy and given the size of the dole in perpetuity. Out of the 5 crore family it would target, a substantial number could, therefore, be charlatans.

The same FP report also says Rahul Gandhi, who has been rationalising the patently unjustified, unsustainable and unimplementable scheme ever since it was announced with a lot of fanfare and with a touch of defiance to throw the gauntlet at and mock the BJP, justifies NYAY additionally as a balm to nurse back the demonetisation-ravaged poor back into the financial health. And he calls his massive proposed dole remonetisation. Touché!

 Rahul Gandhi pitches NYAY as a remedy to demonetisation ills; but can his idea work on the ground?

File image of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Demonetisation happened on 8 November 2016. It did throw the economy, inured as it was to cash, pell-mell for three months. But it was never a sore point with the electorate as the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections gave a decisive thumbs up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cataclysmic move that far from hurting the poor, had for its objective making the moneybags stew in their own juice.

And remonetisation happened post-haste on the back of demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes that suck out as much as 86 percent of the currency in circulation with freshly minted Rs 2,000 notes and newer version of Rs 500 notes stepping into the breach.

Even if one gives a charitable interpretation of the term ‘remonetisation’ to mean compensating the poor for what was usurped from them by demonetisation, one is apt to wonder how such a compensatory measure can continue in perpetuity. When a gimmick is announced, it becomes very difficult to justify it. Rationalisation, therefore, follows unabated in a manner of hundred lies being uttered to justify the first.

Parenthetically, it may be mentioned that the results of demonetisation are now serendipitously and tangentially showing up in the run up to the 2019 general elections. Huge quantities of cash being unearthed during the income tax raids perhaps have their origins in the tumultuous days following the demonetisation when sundry lawyers and crooks were caught frenetically and feverishly laundering their demonetised currency notes with the remonetised notes chiefly of Rs 2,000 denomination.

In a way, it is a poetic justice for Prime Minister Modi, who has constantly been upbraided for launching demonetisation without anything to show for it. Those in the know aver that a substantial part of the illegitimate money stashed up found its way into the banking system through shell companies that are under scrutiny now. And another sliver of it was brazenly converted into new remonetised notes in cahoots with pliable bank managers.

In a way, therefore, the huge cache of notes now being made in the run up to the general elections is cache of the demonetised notes. Be that as it may.

That it is not a top-up scheme but a generous scoop or dollop of Rs 6,000 per month, period, for 5 crore matriarchs of poor families at the bottom of the heap would make it irresistible for charlatans to make it to the gravy train by the hook or the crook. Topping up at least would have the virtue of slowing down the charlatans in their tracks — the onus would be on them to prove that they don’t have adequate (Rs 12,000 per month) income.

(The writer is a senior columnist and tweets @smurlidharan)

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Updated Date: Apr 09, 2019 19:08:19 IST